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Can offshore workers get mortgages back home in the UK?

Today’s job market is incredibly diverse with lots of options available to workers. Gone are the days of being tied to a desk in an office building not far from your home. And with overseas travel quicker, cheaper and easier to access, more individuals have the opportunity to work abroad. Employers need workers to work overseas on oil and gas rigs, cruise ships and other vessels. Such positions often come with great earning potential and career prospects adding to the appeal. But what happens when your current rotation ends? Where do you return to when you aren’t on an oil rig surrounded by crystal blue oceans? 


If you want to purchase a property in the UK (or have one you want to refinance), it can be difficult to find mortgages for offshore workers. Offshore workers have unique working patterns, your homes are often empty for extended periods and the frequency of payment and tax position can make it difficult to secure a standard mortgage. Whilst you might face challenges, by working with a specialist mortgage broker like us, it is still possible to find a suitable mortgage as an offshore worker. 

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Mortgages for offshore workers: Who do lenders consider to be offshore workers?

Offshore workers are generally considered to be workers who do not work on the UK mainland but instead work ‘offshore’. Lender definitions always vary but the following are generally considered to be offshore workers: 
 

  • Oilrig workers 
  • Gas rig workers 
  • Naval officers 
  • Cruise ship staff 
  • Yacht crew 
  • Scientists spending long periods at sea (e.g. marine biologist) 
  • Seamen and maritime workers 
     

Some lenders may also class you as an expat rather than an offshore worker so you could be eligible for an expat mortgage instead. For more information on which category you fall under, contact our friendly team

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Mortgages for offshore workers criteria

If you wish to apply for a mortgage as an offshore worker, you’ll generally need to meet the following lender criteria. 

  • A minimum deposit of 5% 
  • You must have the right to reside in the UK 
  • Proof of your current residential address (where you stay when not working offshore) 
  • A good credit history 
  • You must have a UK bank account to collect your mortgage payments 
  • You work for a UK or international company 
  • To confirm your income, you’ll need to supply at least 3 months payslips and your latest P60 (if employed), or 3 years tax calculations and overviews (if self employed). You may also need to supply bank statements showing receipt of your income, and copies of your current and previous contracts. 
  • Valid insurance for the subject property 
  • You must meet lender’s limits for the number of days spent in the UK 

Lending criteria will vary between lenders and many review mortgages for offshore workers on their own merit. For more detailed criteria, please speak to our mortgage advisers

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Why do offshore workers struggle to get a mortgage?

Whilst offshore workers often earn good (or high) levels of income that doesn’t mean you find it easy to get a mortgage. You may struggle not because of how much you earn but due to the uniqueness of your working arrangements. This might be because of your: 

Unique working pattern

Offshore workers and seafarers can have unique working patterns where you’ll work a set number of shifts and days. You’ll then have shore leave for a set period before having to return for your next rotation. If there are periods where you are not working, some lenders can take issue with this leading to issues with mortgage approval. 

Type and length of contract 

Lenders will review the type and length of your contract and may have restrictions over what they will accept. Whether you are in employment, self-employment, sub-contracting, or work through an umbrella company or limited company, can all impact your application. The length of your contract and how long remains on the contract will also affect your chances of getting mortgage approval. 

Non UK Income 

If working for a multinational company, you may earn income that is not paid in UK sterling. Some lenders are not keen on using income paid in foreign currency. They may also have restrictions on which currencies they accept. Lenders who accept foreign currency may make a deduction off your earnings known as a ‘haircut’. If not using all your income, this could reduce how much you can borrow.

Time out of the country 

Offshore workers often spend many months working abroad. If your property will be empty whilst you are working away, this could be a further obstacle to securing a mortgage. If the property is empty for too long it can invalidate your insurance. Lenders may also make it a requirement that you reside in the property for at least 6 months a year. If your contract indicates that you will be away for longer than this, you could find that your mortgage lender declines your application. 

Tax situation & residency 

Your tax situation could also affect your chances of getting a mortgage depending on whether you pay tax in the UK or not and if you are considered a UK resident.  If working at sea you may also be eligible for SED (seafarers earning deduction). 

Non UK bank account 

Do you receive your income into a UK bank account or is it paid into an overseas bank account? If your income is not paid into a UK bank account, this could also affect your ability to secure a mortgage. 

Ability to provide documents 

Your mortgage lender will want to see documents regarding your employment in English. If you have difficulties obtaining the appropriate documents this could be a problem. 

What is the SED allowance? 

In 2012, the UK government brought in a new piece of tax legislation for seafarers known as the Seafarer’s Earning Deduction. The SED exempts seafarers from paying income tax on earnings from overseas. This effectively means they can claim 100% tax relief on what they earn. Not all offshore workers are eligible for SED – just seafarers, so oil and gas workers on rigs are not eligible. Crown employees are also ineligible. There are some additional criteria seafarers must meet to qualify for SED which are available on the HMRC website. Always get advice from a qualified accountant.  

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How Simple Fast Mortgage can help secure mortgages for offshore workers?

Securing a mortgage as an offshore worker is not an easy task. That’s why we suggest working with our experienced expert mortgage team. We understand the challenges that offshore workers can face when trying to buy or refinance a property in the UK. Whether you work on an oil rig, a cruise ship or yacht we’ll find a lender who is the right fit for your circumstances. Our advisers have extensive knowledge of the lenders available so can recommend those that cater specifically to offshore workers like you. In this way, we can ensure that we find the right deal with the right lender so that the mortgage application process goes smoothly. We’ll liaise directly with the lender and any third parties on your behalf. Contact our expert team to start your mortgage application today

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